Baer’s Pochard, Aythya baeri

Baer’s Pochard, (Aythya baeri), is a species of diving duck found in southeast Russia and northeast China. It migrates in winter months to southern China, Vietnam, Japan and India. Its habitat is lakes with rich aquatic vegetation. It nests in dense grass, flooded tussock meadows, or flooded shrubby meadows. In Liaoning, China, it is typically found in densely vegetated coastal wetlands, or around lakes and ponds surrounded by forest. It prefers freshwater lakes and reservoirs in the winter.

The genus name commemorates the Estonian naturalist Karl Ernst Von Baer.

Baer’s Pochard, at 16 to 18 inches long, is similar in size to its close relative the Ferruginous Duck (A. nyroca). While the two are also similar in appearance, the coloration of the males are distinct from one another. The Baer’s Pochard male has a dark back and upper flanks, white lower flanks and belly. The females of the two species are very similar, although almost all females of the genus Aythya look strikingly similar.

Formerly classified as a vulnerable species by the IUCN, recent research shows that numbers are decreasing more rapidly than previously believed. It was uplisted to endangered in 2008 as a result. Between 1987 and 2007, there were only 11 reports of groups of 100+ birds in mainland China. A recent Chinese WWF evaluation found just 131 individuals on Liangzihu Lake, and only another three flocks of ten, eight, and three individuals at other sites.

The main causes for its decline are believed to be hunting and wetland destruction. Unconfirmed reports from eastern China suggest that as many as 3,000 individuals may be hunted every year.

Image Caption: Male Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri) at Sylvan Heights Waterfowl Park in North Carolina, USA. Credit: Dick Daniels / Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)